Pittsburgh (42-25-6) at Washington (48-14-10)

  • Game info: 7:00 pm EDT Wed Mar 24, 2010
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The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have met twice this season, and both games featured playoff-like atmosphere and intensity.

As the teams gear up for the postseason and with two more games between them, their rivalry figures to become even more heated.

The Capitals look to move closer to securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference as they host the Penguins on Wednesday night.

Washington (48-14-10) is closing on the top seed in the East, currently holding a 16-point lead over the second-place Penguins (42-25-6) and New Jersey Devils. The Capitals and Devils each have 10 games left, one more than the Penguins.

The teams closest in the standings aren’t the only ones Washington is paying attention to. The Capitals will face Atlanta and Boston - one of which likely will be a first-round playoff opponent - twice each in the final weeks.

Washington, which has won seven of 10 overall, has won both games against Pittsburgh this season and five of six overall in the regular season. The Penguins, though, eliminated the Capitals in seven games in last season’s conference semifinals.

The teams will close their regular season series April 6 in Pittsburgh, but expect to see each other in the postseason.

“We think we’ll meet them eventually (in the playoffs) so we want to make a statement against them,” Washington’s Brendan Morrison(notes) told NHL.com.

Of course, much of the focus Wednesday will be on the matchup between Sidney Crosby(notes) and Alex Ovechkin(notes). Ovechkin has five goals and two assists against Pittsburgh while Crosby has three goals in the two games.

The two put on a show in their most recent meeting Feb. 7. Crosby scored twice to give the Penguins an early lead, but Ovechkin finished with a hat trick in the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime victory.

Ovechkin said too much is made of the rivalry, but Washington coach Bruce Boudreau understands it from a fan perspective.

“If I was sitting on the couch and watching this game, I would be anticipating it greatly because every time Ovechkin plays against Crosby it seems like something special comes out of it,” he said.

Ovechkin returned from his two-game suspension Saturday and scored in the first period of a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay. It was his 45th goal and gives him seven points in his last five games.

While Ovechkin and the Capitals are gaining momentum, Crosby and the Penguins have stumbled, losing their last two games to drop to 2-3-2 over the last seven.

They fell 3-1 to Detroit on Monday. Pascal Dupuis(notes) scored late in the second period to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Detroit scored again early in the third. Pittsburgh has scored 14 goals in the last seven games after netting 16 during a four-game winning streak prior to the slump.

“I think our level, as far as desperation, needs to go up,” coach Dan Bylsma said.

Crosby was held without a point for the third time in four games. He hasn’t scored a goal in his last five and has only one goal in the last eight.

Evgeni Malkin(notes) sat out for the third time in four games Monday because of an injured right foot and is day-to-day. Malkin has 24 goals and is second behind Crosby with 70 points. He has five assists against Washington.

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Wednesday, Mar 24